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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Smoky, Creamy Mac & Cheese

Among some of my friends there is a great debate regarding processed cheese. Some think it should be stripped of its cheese title, while others love its gooey goodness. I'm on the fence because I think that processed cheese has its place. I love it melted on a burger or in scrambled eggs, but at the same time, I'm not going to place it alongside a good Camembert or Gruyere.

So when I came across this Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese recipe for Smoky, Creamy Mac & Cheese, I wasn't going to turn my nose up at it just because of its plethora of phony ingredients. (Sorry, Kraft, but you're not being sold in Whole Foods for more reasons than one.) Macaroni and cheese is one of Amir's favorite foods and they had me at the word "smoky." So it was a go in the Kinayman house.

Smoky, Creamy Mac & Cheese

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups 2% milk
1 tub (8 ounces) Philadelphia Chive & Onion Cream Cheese Spread
4 ounces Velveeta Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product, cut into 1/2-in cubes
1 cup (4 oz) Kraft shredded sharp cheddar cheese
5 Oscar Mayer bacon strips, cooked and crumbled (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. butter, melted

COOK macaroni according to package directions. In a large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth, gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in the cream cheese, Velveeta, cheddar cheese, bacon, salt and pepper.

DRAIN macaroni; stir in cheese sauce. Transfer to a greased 8-inch square baking dish. Combine bread crumbs and melted butter; sprinkle over casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until bubbly.

The Verdict: Processed cheese has a place, but this isn't it. None of us were bowled over by it, and that includes Mr. Macaroni and Cheese himself, Amir.

First of all, and this isn't really about the recipe itself, do yourself a favor and find the smallest block of Velveeta you can. This recipe calls for 4 ounces and the only Velveeta they sold at Target was 32 ounces. Holy cow! What am I supposed to do with a cinder block of Velveeta? That is, unless you're in the more is better when it comes to processed cheese camp. Next, the
Velveeta and the cream cheese are salty. Omit the salt! And lastly, you can almost double the amount of pasta. The amount of cheese sauce this recipe makes is shocking. I thought it looked like elbow macaroni swimming in a sea of cheese. It will obviously make a lot. If you choose to make this recipe, make it when you need to bring a covered dish somewhere.

The changes I made to the recipe were omitting the salt and the bacon, using 1% instead of 2% milk, and using whole wheat macaroni.

Meh. I don't think this one is going to become a part of the regular rotation.

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